I got a better idea of how teachers are doing worthwhile tasks the other day during an afternoon professional development session. I took two big ideas away from this, 1) worthwhile tasks need to be educationally rich [as opposed to the filler to keep the kids busy while the teacher pulls groups] and 2) students need to do worthwhile tasks independently.

Voicethread is a tool that could easily lead to rich learning and at the same time be easy to do in the classroom. Teachers can sign up for free here http://voicethread.com/pricing/k12

Here is a description from the VoiceThread site:

A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to leave comments in 5 ways – using voice (with a mic or phone), text, audio file, or video (via a webcam). Share a VoiceThread with friends, students, and colleagues for them to record comments too.

How would you use this as a worthwhile task? You would upload images that students would then take turns looking at and commenting on. The image could be anything you can get onscreen. You could have students discuss something they are reading, make observations about images of butterfly life cycle, or pose wonder questions about an historical image, etc, etc…

Here are a few examples http://readingqueens.wikispaces.com/2nd+Grade+Voicethreads

Of course, just like any worthwhile task, you would need to teach the students how to do it before you put it in practice. But once they get it down, you would have a rock solid worthwhile task that many students would be eager to participate in.